For anyone who’s read my blog posts for a while or who saw me speak in San Jose earlier this year you’ll know that I’m particularly interested in personalization and specifically, Google’s patents on the subject. It’s because of this that the launch of 23andme yesterday was particularly interesting though I have to say, I haven’t seen anything in any of the patents on how this ties together.
For those that haven’t heard yet, 23andme is a DNA testing facility of sorts. For $999 they’ll send you a saliva kit which you mail back and a few weeks later you can logon to their site and see how your DNA looks as far as a few conditions and diseases go (heart attacks, strokes, etc.). Now the real curiosity to me is that this company is funded by Google. Why?
Well one reason could be that one of the founders is Anne Wojcicki, who has a background in health-care investing and is married to Google Inc co-founder Sergey Brin. Good reason HOWEVER Sergey can’t just hand over millions of gBucks whenever he likes so there has to be a benefit for Google.
There is the chance that the folks over at Google simply believe that this is an interesting project and lucrative in it’s own right and thought to diversify their funding sources. Of course! Advertising is sooooo yesterday. Time to move on.
Or there is some data that the gPeople are hoping to get? Is this the first step in a larger project to get our DNA. What personalization options will Google have if they know you’re going to die at 45? You’ll know you’re in trouble when funeral home ads start popping up when you’re partner is surfing the web.
It’s definitely WAY too early to come to any conclusive idea as to what the folks at Google are really hoping to accomplish but it’ll be interesting to watch them and how they use the data they collect.
The issue I find more immediately concerning is the privacy issues. While the 23andme website claims high levels of security (and I have no doubt they’re telling the truth there) the government can step in and demand the files. I’m not saying they’re going to do it, but they could. And to me, that’s a bit frightening [ i don’t know what my DNA says about me but I don’t know if I want my government and, worse yet, my insurance companies to know.
Some other sources of info on this launch:
SEO news blog post by Dave Davies, CEO @ 4:14 am on November 20, 2007